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On predicting the solar cycle using mean-field models

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul BushbyORCiD


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We discuss the difficulties of predicting the solar cycle using mean-field models. Here we argue that these difficulties arise owing to the significant modulation of the solar activity cycle, and that this modulation arises owing to either stochastic or deterministic processes. We analyze the implications for predictability in both of these situations by considering two separate solar dynamo models. The first model represents a stochastically perturbed flux transport dynamo. Here even very weak stochastic perturbations can give rise to significant modulation in the activity cycle. This modulation leads to a loss of predictability. In the second model, we neglect stochastic effects and assume that generation of magnetic field in the Sun can be described by a fully deterministic nonlinear mean-field model—this is a best case scenario for prediction. We designate the output from this deterministic model (with parameters chosen to produce chaotically modulated cycles) as a target time series that subsequent deterministic mean-field models are required to predict. Long-term prediction is impossible even if a model that is correct in all details is utilized in the prediction. Furthermore, we show that even short-term prediction is impossible if there is a small discrepancy in the input parameters from the fiducial model. This is the case even if the predicting model has been tuned to reproduce the output of previous cycles. Given the inherent uncertainties in determining the transport coefficients and nonlinear responses for mean-field models, we argue that this makes it impossible to predict the solar cycle using the output from such models.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bushby PJ, Tobias SM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Astrophysical Journal

Year: 2007

Volume: 661

Issue: 2

Pages: 1289-1296

ISSN (print): 0004-637X

ISSN (electronic): 1538-4357

Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1086/516628


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